Simon Norfolk Photography Born in 1963 in Lagos, Nigeria. Lives in Brighton, UK.
Project DescriptionThe war in Bosnia in the 1990’s was in many ways innovative. It raised to common currency the terms ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and ‘ humanitarian intervention;’ it brought back to Europe a barbarism not seen since the Second World War; and was the first war fought very much under the eyes of the media. In addition, it was the first conflict fought by killers who knew, before the war had even finished, that a war crimes tribunal awaited them.
A peculiar consequence of this development can be found along a potholed track through un-peopled forests in the Serbian controlled part of Bosnia, at a place known as Crny Vrh. This is a ‘secondary mass grave.’ This term is a technical one and needs elucidating. ‘Primary mass graves’ are tragically common in Bosnia. Villages were captured or there was a quick shift in the front-lines: the defeated were taken to quiet places, gunned down (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6540645.stm) and buried. But when post-war investigators eventually got to these locations, they found, to their astonishment, nothing. The bodies had disappeared. The perpetrators, fearing trials in The Hague, had returned secretly, often at night, often to places cleared of any possible witnesses. Using digging machinery, the primary graves had been excavated and the remains – chewed up, decomposing bodies and clothing – were taken away and hidden in remote, secret locations.
Crny Vrh is largest secondary mass grave of this kind to be discovered to date. The remains of 620 men were in this pit (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3111189.stm).
(Since writing this, a larger grave has been found at Kamenica – SN) (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5260192.stm)
Some of these secondary graves have kept their secrets while others are widely known, but nonetheless remain un-investigated. I heard rumours of a brand new Serbian Orthodox church widely believed to be sitting atop a mass grave; there’s the aluminium smelter that has an inexplicable 18” sludge in a sodium hydroxide vat; and there are mines down which, it is said, corpses were thrown followed by explosives to collapse the shaft.
I have little to add to the much-documented discussions about what happened at Srebrenica (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/675945.stm); about how it could have been prevented, who was to blame and what the massacres mean for the rest of us. But I am intensely interested in the idea of men who thought they could get away with what they did and went to extraordinary lengths, to try to hide the evidence of their appalling crimes. They thought that by intimidation or subterfuge their dirty secrets could be preserved, held, trapped. Frozen.
But over time, the secrets escape. A village hard-man dies or moves away and someone finds the courage to make a phone call (http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=765&id=1670432006). Political allegiances shift and somebody sends an anonymous letter. Guilty consciences crumble. Crny Vrh bleeds.
Exhibitions (Excerpt)2007, ‘I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.’ La Médiatine, Brussels, Belgium
2007, ‘I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.’ McBride Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium
(2007, ‘Archaeological Treasures from the Tigris Valley,’ Le Theatre Royal de Namur, Belgium::http://www.theatredenamur.be
2007, Ogilvy and Mather, New York, USA
2006, ‘Et in Arcadia ego,’ The Halsey Gallery of the College of Charleston, South Carolina, USA
(2006, ‘Et in Arcadia ego,’ Russian Academy of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia::http://www.mdf.ru
(2006, ‘I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.’ The AoP Gallery, London, UK::http://www.the-aop.org
2006, ‘Et in Arcadia ego,’ Shanghai Art Museum
2005, ‘Et in Arcadia ego,’ Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York, USA
2005, ‘Eastern Bosnia and Northern Normandy,’ The Photographers’ Gallery, London
Publications (Excerpt)2003, ‘Afghanistan: chronotopia.’ 166 pp. Dewi Lewis Publishing, Manchester, 2002. 1-899235-54-X
2002, ‘Afghanistan: chronotopia.’ 166 pp. Actes Sud, Arles
2002, ‘Afghanistan: chronotopia.’ 166 pp. Lunwerg Editions, Barcelona
2002, ‘Afganistan.’ 166 pp. Peliti Associati, Rome
2002, ‘Afghanistan Zero.’ 166 pp. Edition Braus, Heidelberg
2003, ‘Afghanistan’ A Limited Edition box set of 12 images. Dewi Lewis Publishing, Manchester